Botai culture

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Ancient settlement at Botai

The Botai culture is an archaeological culture (c. 3700–3100 BC)[1] of prehistoric north-western Asia. It was named after the settlement of Botai in today's northern Kazakhstan. The Botai culture has two other large sites: Krasnyi Yar, and Vasilkovka.

The Botai site is on the Iman-Burluk River, a tributary of the Ishim River. The site has at least 153 pithouses. The settlement was partly destroyed by river erosion which is still occurring, and by management of the wooded area.

David W. Anthony connects the Botai culture to the eastward migration of peoples from the Volga-Ural steppe in the mid-4th millennium BC, which would lead to the establishment of the Afanasevo culture in South Siberia.[2]


The occupations of the Botai people were connected to their horses. Some researchers state that horses were domesticated locally by the Botai.[3] It was once thought that most of the horses in evidence were probably the wild species, Equus ferus, hunted with bows, arrows, and spears. However, evidence reported in 2009 for pottery containing mare's milk and of horse bones with telltale signs of being bred after domestication have demonstrated a much stronger case for the Botai culture as a major user of domestic horses by about 3,500 BC, close to 1,000 years earlier than the previous scientific consensus. Botai horses were primarily ancestors of Przewalski's horses, and contributed 2.7% ancestry to modern domestic horses. Thus, modern horses may have been domesticated in other centers of origin.[4]

The pottery of the culture had simple shapes, most examples being gray in color and unglazed. The decorations are geometric, including hatched triangles and rhombi as well as step motifs. Punctates and circles were also used as decorative motifs.[5]

Current research is being conducted by Alan Outram of Exeter University in association with other institutes, the Bristol (UK), Winchester (UK), and Kokshetau (Kazakhstan) universities, and the Carnegie Museum. Along with students, Outram conducted a magnetometer survey of the Botai site in 2008, and is looking into conducting further research into the Botai culture's role into the development of horse domestication.[3]

Language reconstruction[edit]

Asko Parpola suggests that the language of the Botai culture cannot be conclusively identified with any known language or language family.[6] He suggests that the Proto-Ugric word *lox for "horse" is a borrowing from the language of the Botai culture.[a][7] However, Vladimir Napolskikh believes that it comes from Proto-Tocharian *l(ə)wa ("prey; livestock").[8]


Damgaard et al. (2018) extracted aDNA from three different Botai individuals. Two of them turned out to be male, and another one was female. Two of the samples were taken from crania curated in Petropavlovsk Museum, denoted as "Botai Excavation 14, 1983" and "Botai excavation 15".[9]

Autosomally, the Botai population turned out to be closer to the Ancient North Eurasian component than the Yamnaya population. They are show share more ancestry with East Asians. No significant gene flow between Botai and Yamnaya was observed.[9]

Botai 14, dated to 3517-3108 cal BC, carried a derived allele at R1b1a1-M478. Botai 15, dated to 3343-3026 cal BC, belonged to the basal haplogroup N*-M231. Regarding mitochondrial DNA, the Copper Age Botai sample BOT2016 belonged to the haplogroup Z1a, Botai 15 - to R1b1, and Botai 14 - to K1b2.[9]

One more Botai individual, tested in September 2015, belonged to the mitochondrial DNA haplogroup K1b2 and (with the 97.1% probability) the Y-DNA haplogroup O2.[10]


  1. ^ The Proto-Ugric word *lox is reconstructed from Hungarian , Mansi , and Khanty law, all meaning "horse". The word is neither of Uralic nor Indo-European origin, nor does it resemble any of the words for "horse" in known Eurasian language families.[6]


  1. ^ Mair, Victor H.; Hickman, Jane (8 September 2014). Reconfiguring the Silk Road: New Research on East-West Exchange in Antiquity. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-1934536698. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  2. ^ Anthony, David W. (26 July 2010). The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age riders from the Eurasian steppes shaped the modern world. Princeton University Press. pp. 264–265. ISBN 978-1400831104. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  3. ^ a b Outram, Alan K.; et al. (6 March 2009), "The Earliest Horse Harnessing and Milking", Science, 323 (5919): 1332–1335, Bibcode:2009Sci...323.1332O, doi:10.1126/science.1168594, PMID 19265018, S2CID 5126719
  4. ^ Gaunitz C, Fages A, Hanghøj K, Albrechtsen A, Khan N, Schubert M, et al. (6 April 2018). "Ancient genomes revisit the ancestry of domestic and Przewalski's horses". Science Magazine. 360 (6384): 111–114.
  5. ^ "Carnegie Museum of Natural History: Sandra Olsen". Archived from the original on 28 January 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  6. ^ a b Parpola, Asko (1 November 2020). "The problem of Samoyed origins in the light of archaeology: On the formation and dispersal of East Uralic (Proto-Ugro-Samoyed)" (PDF). In Hyytiäinen, Tiina; Jalava, Lotta; Saarikivi, Janne; Sandman, Erika (eds.). Per Urales ad Orientem. Iter polyphonicum multilingue. Festskrift tillägnad Juha Janhunen på hans sextioårsdag den 12 februari 2012. Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne. 264. Helsinki: Finno-Ugrian Society. pp. 295–296. ISBN 978-952-5667-33-2. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  7. ^ "Uralic Etymological Database".
  8. ^ Napolskikh, Vladimir (1996). "Происхождение угорского названия лошади". Linguistica Uralica (in Russian). 32 (2): 116–118. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  9. ^ a b c "The first horse herders and the impact of early Bronze Age steppe expansions into Asia" (PDF). Science Magazine. Supplementary Materials. 8 May 2018.
  10. ^ Первые результаты работы Лаборатории популяционной генетики (in Russian)

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